Counsel for Albany County Assessor Grant Showacre will not appeal a District Court decision granting tax-exempt status to a University of Wyoming student apartment complex, ending a legal dispute between the two parties that began in 2013.
Judge Jeffrey Donnell’s Jan. 29 decision ruled Bison Run Village, a 9.14-acre on-campus apartment complex, is not subject to county property taxes, reversing a July ruling by the Wyoming Board of Equalization and upholding the Albany County Board of Equalization’s original decision on the matter.
In November 2013, the county equalization board sided 2-1 with the university, citing two arguments: The apartment complex is a state-owned property used primarily for government purposes or, alternately, property used by a secret, benevolent and charitable society or association and not for mainly commercial purposes or private profit.
Throughout the dispute, Showacre argued Bison Run was used commercially, disqualifying it from tax-exempt status, and state law and Department of Revenue regulations required the university to pay taxes on the property. The university disagreed, expressing concern other apartment complexes might eventually be subject to property tax as well.
Showacre said he initially considered appealing the District Court decision but ultimately decided against it.
“We had read Judge Donnell’s decision and we had started reviewing and researching,” he said. “We thought we had an idea on a way that we could appeal this, but unfortunately with the research, we couldn’t come up with enough information which we felt would bring a successful decision on our behalf. So, I decided that we are just going to leave it at this, and we’ll stop here.”
He plans to use Donnell’s decision as a guideline for existing and future projects, he said.
“It was a surprise,” Showacre said. “But you’ve got to respect the judge’s decision and move on. So, that’s what we’re doing.”
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said the university was pleased with the outcome.
“I understand in situations like this there can be disagreements, and that’s why we have a system in place to deal with legal conflicts,” he said. “And I think everybody’s ready to move forward.”
Albany County Treasurer Linda Simpson said taxes paid by the university throughout the legal conflict are kept in an interest-collecting protested funds account.
“(Showacre) will give us the assessments, and then in his paperwork he tells us if he has lowered the valuation, if we need to refund the whole thing,” Simpson said. “It varies, depending on what he’s classifying it under.”
The funds would then be returned to UW pending review and approval of the Albany County Commission, Simpson said.
If Showacre had won the case, interest on the fund would be given to Albany County School District No. 1, she said; because District Court sided with the university, that money will be returned to UW.